Suggestions to Help You Deal with a Loss of Self

| Grief Author and Speaker

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Suggestions to Help You Deal with a Loss of SelfIf life plops a bucket load of misery on you, with fear acting as a mallet to pound you deeper into slippery quicksand, what would you do to survive? Once you sink to the bottom, how would you begin to shimmy out? As far I know, there isn’t an elevator with a “straight to the top” button or a trampoline to sling shot you out of this place, instead, you have to learn to communicate within and determine a plan of action.

Try writing a shorthand self- portrait. Think of the pen as a brush stroke and visualize paint dripping on canvas making your portrait come alive. Now, conclude if this is what you want to see. Perhaps it would identify the mixture of the inner and the outer personality, the self and the physical image. The insights that you will get from this exercise will be the key to resolving whatever issue is troubling you.

The brain’s cerebral cortex takes the input that enters our consciousness and puts it together in relation to our formed perceptions. This brings order to our understanding of objects and events that are experienced. J.C. Jahnke said in his bookCognition that “Perception may be understood as the study of how body and mind cooperate in establishing our awareness of the external world”. Self-perception erodes under the pounding of constant fear based struggles. Forging your way through the sludge is to connect to the truth without taking the reflection of self for the literal truth. We forget that even the mirror distorts. In the mirror the image is reversed and intrinsically contains flaws.

The following are some suggestions to help you deal with a loss of self.

  • Allow yourself to get in touch with your pain. Facing your fears is powerful.
  • Take an inventory of your most important relationship. That would be the relationship you have with yourself. What is your reality of who you believe yourself to be? Open up those deep-rooted notions about who you think your really are. Write down five positive things true about yourself. Write down three things you dislike about yourself. Define the artificial barriers you have you built around yourself.
  • Define your visions. What do you want for your future? Break it down to three years, five years and ten years. Say it out loud. Commit it to paper.
  • Define what really matters to you. What values would you fight for? What are those core values that make you – you? The very things that are important to you should motivate you to stay focused on your vision.
  • What do you think is the purpose for you being alive? Once you know your purpose it is like a needle to a compass allowing you to find your direction through life no matter the difficulties. It’s a way to stay on course at all times.
  • Take some time to yourself to think everyday and clarify your progress.
  • Control what you can, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, cut down on sugars and caffeine, keep alcohol intake down. Rest and move your body with walking or exercise routines. Learn breathing and relaxation techniques.
  • Understand that nothing changes until you do. When you change a domino effect takes place. Nothing else can possibly be the exact same even with the slightest change. Once you make a change in attitude or determination others won’t get the same result when they treat you the same way. Which will then cause them to change. Cause and effect can be a wonderful thing. The ball is then in their corner and they will have to determine what behavior to change in order to stay in your life.
  • Reestablish existing relationships in your life and understand that they may not understand your needs. Learn to talk with them rather than to them. An example would be if someone asks you how you are doing. Don’t lie. Tell the truth. Simply let them know if it is a good day or a bad day and thank them for asking.
  • Find effective ways to cope with these life-changing losses by handling your pain. Some people write down their thoughts, their disappointments, their fears, and their sadness. Be your own audience and listen to yourself.
  • Read inspirational books as well as self-help books. Take from them what you like and at least give it a try.
  • Unless you are super person, you can only change one thing at a time. Prioritize.
  • Practice making decision everyday. Any decision such as choosing to eat an apple over a piece of cake is a decision to be proud of. When you do decide to eat the piece of cake be proud of that decision also – just making a decision is good.
  • Find what you are passionate about. Is it an idea, a value, an art?
  • Stop embellishing what you say to others. Try to tell it like it really is. When life teaches us to become award-winning actors just to get throughout the day it is very difficult to tell it like it is. There are two types of people in this world. The ones who will take two steps forward to listen and befriend. The others who take two steps back. You can see it physically when you talk to someone. Watch and see. The ones who step forward are people who will help and listen. They deserve the truth after all, don’t you?
  • Get outside of yourself. Volunteer. Help others land on their feet when they have stumbled. Don’t hide your emotional scars. Having them doesn’t make you special or an outcast. We all have them. Share them so someone else may stand away from the shadows and come into the light. I personally find volunteering one of the best therapies in the world. Focusing on others is a soul enriching experience. I volunteer with people as well as with animals. It has become such a positive part of who I am and I highly suggest it to anyone who especially has a tendency to a reclusive temperament.
  • Rank what you see as your problems. Focus in on what you can change. Focus further on the most important situation you are facing. Break down each problem into smaller problems. It won’t be so overwhelming when you divide the problem up so you can then conquer it bit by bit.
  • Visualize your life the way you would like it to be. Write it down. Think about it in the morning when you get up and at night when you retire. Visualize a life that is brain food for the soul.
  • Determine whether you are procrastinating on situations creatively or calculated. Creative procrastination sometimes is rooted in a perfectionist behavior. People will procrastinate on a responsibility because they have fear they won’t be able to live up their own high standards. Calculated procrastination is a warning sign there is a deeper problem. Sometimes with calculated procrastination a person will decide to do nothing thinking the problem will solve itself some way or another.
  • When you feel panicked stay in the moment. Don’t think about what just happened or what is going to happen focus on staying in the moment. Concentrate on something concrete in front of you and breathe deeply until you feel the panic subside.
  • Take responsibility that you and you alone create your own feelings. Value your uniqueness. Grasp how amazing it is that there is only one you in the whole world!

I asked a friend, Holly Hoier, to share with our readers about her effective ways for dealing with life’s mysteriously harsh bumps in the road. She has had heavy boulders resting on her shoulders and yet she stays steady and streamlines her view, propelling herself forward to a healthy radiant life. Here is here story:

For me, the meaning of recovery becomes clearer when such a loaded descriptor is more concisely put… Recovery is one’s resolve or Bounce!

I am a biologist; an applied biologist. I am well educated, both traditionally and experientially. Life and genetics have allowed me to develop a multitude of diverse talents and skills that have enabled ongoing participation in more and more diverse learning adventures, for which I am thankful! However, ‘adventure’ is a part of the above descriptor that I apply only post-processing the ‘pain’ out of learning the lessons during one’s crawl up a learning curve or as one blindly thrashes through certain horrid circumstances in life.

A while ago, I was asked about my open minded and positive outlook on life. In my heart I know that I am blessed while being a pretty good actress indeed, as both are most difficult disciplines to keep exercised when in public. My bank balance is rarely showing a little more than survival needs, I continue working to pay-off loans and get myself into the black after raising 2 sons alone and post 2 marriages that sucked the small inheritance I received 30 years ago. I lost my dear father in a fire when I was only 11 years old… I have suffered and intimately know loss.

It is fortunate that I seem to have no greed genes in my genetic make-up but I do demonstrate major dominance in resourcefulness and social graces; both traits that continue to serve me well in the maintenance of a positive perspective on life in general. One of the best skill drills for developing this discipline has been staying on top of my sons’ growth and ever-expanding networking of contacts as they continue to explore the world of opportunities; having long since moved from coach to cheerleader. The relief of knowing that investing all of me and my resources in my children during their years under my roof, while practicing an honorable work ethic as a community educator and/or biologist, is regularly reported back by them as the best possible curriculum frame! And so, I am satisfied that my gut feelings in the child-rearing arena have served our family well. As well, my outlook on life was primarily forged by the same curriculum.

And yet, as a professional woman of 51, I am at times left alone with a feeling of loss, personal loss, even in the face of such fulfillment/ achievement as a mother. Now able to return to my career development with priority status focus, it appears that my choices for my children and family have definitely degraded my profile as a competitive professional; especially as a career biologist.

I repeatedly find that the introspective concerns, ponderings, and conviction I exercised for parental decision-making are perceived as way off-the-mark and often unwanted in my functions as a middle-aged, single woman professional. A couple of years ago while I was serving as a government biologist, I was openly referred to as unaccomplished by one of my supervisors (a woman!). Since that term position ended, I have returned to the classroom where I am well-accomplished by any standards but find that I am avoided and/or held under negative scrutiny by many of the new, younger education professionals. Rather than utilized as mentoring resource, I am viewed as too strong and self-directed in my actions and my professional mode of operations seem to show me in over-drive for my recognizable worth. This lack of recognition seems to be enhanced by an inability of some of my peer professionals to acknowledge the holistic value of my years and diverse experiences. As well I promote this because I am so poor at playing the ‘unknowing underling’…no matter how good my product yield…I hear that behaviorally I appear aloof. In truth, such behavior constitutes my practice of working through confusion at a distance while seeking to understand and plan further appropriateness in my actions.

Through all this the real loss has been me, my identity, and my grip on things as I move through this new chapter in life. It’s like I must learn HOW to lose so I can begin to move on successfully again; how to go ahead and just lose control, then get comfortable with my place on a new and grander learning curve rather than easing into avoidance via Prozac.

I deal with the orders of younger men and women regularly now. This doesn’t bother me except coming from those who I watch make decisions for their careers while leaving their families and children on a much lower wrung along the ladders they climb. I bite my tongue, suck down the blood, and check my eyeballs for noticeable rolling when they complain about their child-rearing duties as primary obstacles to leadership.

I hope my story is a more traditional one, on behalf of the children in our culture. I was the gal who chose my children first and figured my career would wait and it did. Once my sons were up and out of the house, I sold the darn thing! It was in need of a new roof and other such things that I just couldn’t afford that year! So I sold it and paid off both mortgages; the house and the second mortgage that afforded vehicles for my sons to get to work and after school sports during high school. Once sold, I moved to my mother’s after she had glandular surgery as well recuperating from a fractured hip. She lived 80 miles south of the office housing my federal biologist position. It was a difficult move during my second year in my attempt to pursue a career as a federal biologist. Even with my M.S. in wildlife management, the 2-4 year term position was the best I could get after teaching for so many years. While staying with my mom during her recovery, I was doing the 160 mile round-trip daily while traveling cross-state for federal consultative work while m mother was not a fun gal in recovery.

Throughout the prior year, the escapist in me was seeking other federal but permanent positions out of state…a plan to remove all memory of the trenches of single-parenting (= getting out of Dodge). I was one of two finalists for a great position with NOAA in Charleston, South Carolina while toiling under the monitoring of my mom’s recovering and finishing my fire biologist duties. Mistakenly I was too confident that I’d be selected for the position as I had almost always gotten every job I’d pursued in the past…meanwhile, I was not pursuing other positions as vigorously as I should…I committed the huge all-eggs-in-one-basket error. Mostly because during those months of familial responsibilities, I just didn’t have the time or energy to do anything more than have faith that I would land the NOAA position.

I was not chosen. I was so exhausted and stressed that the unwanted decision only helped me realize how numb I had become when I felt nothing from the news…I felt absolutely nothing after all that! I simply finished my term position duties and a month later left federal the job.

In the free-fall of no work, spiritual and mental numbness I moved 3 times in 3 months until, and with great determination, I found a nice little loft apartment in a house near the beach. It is a funky, run-down, but affordable place that has been my saving grace. All through these moves I was searching for jobs. In financial despair, I finally had to give up my pursuit as a career biologist and return to being a classroom teacher; the job I had done while my children were in high school so I could be in their system and a savvy mom. The last time I had been a teacher, I swore I would never return to the classroom and the horrid pay for such intense and thankless work…my spirit just couldn’t take it! And yet here I was, accepting a high school science position simply thankful for the benefits and a paycheck…life is a roller coaster for sure.

I knew the school was very lucky to get me with my background in teaching in the county previously, connections in the scientific community, grant writing skills, program/curriculum development, etc… and yet, I was required to step in at a low level, first year pay scale because I had most recently taught out of county; never mind that other county’s elite program to which I’d been recruited and in a program I’d successfully taught during 3 years of national recognition. For a full year they got my talents and experience at the cost of a brand-new, untested teacher!

Loss of respect, loss of position, loss of self-esteem is as bad as loss of home and long sought career…I was at a complete loss of spirit and daily waking to that old feeling of free-fall. It was horrid, almost unbearable constantly to the point that my major daily discipline was to not allow me to lose me…whatever thread of myself I woke up to and could grab buoyed by daily prayer.

It has taken me so much time to figure what it was that I had lost and had to get back…I needed to identify this in a way that I could visualize something onto which I could reach out and hold…feeling the loss until I could understand it.

The professional abrasives are still there; the young, relatively untested, prideful leaders who choose to feel my presence as a threat rather than sizing me up as a most valuable team member/mentor! I continue to steer clear of this sort and work each day to achieve specified job requirements while keeping mental note of the facilitating types who show no need for control, but an open willingness to team for the greater good…they are there too. It has been a difficult time but I didn’t lose anymore of myself.

As the calendar flips its pages, my ‘Just do it’ mode, carefully maintained low profile, and dedication to energetic efficiency are talents that keep serving me well. I find or better feel that I am making progress somewhere deep inside. There is a rebuilding as well a restructuring of the functional and emotional mehappening en route as I am certainly changing through this discipline; recognizing a holistic consistency and upgrade in my well-being.

I was and still choose to be alone a lot while liking it. My dog and I continue to hike more miles of beach than I can calculate, finding the sunrise as a blessed way to greet each new day when I can. I have always been a swimmer and my regular training sessions with the local Masters group has become as ritual as brushing my teeth. And in these activities, I meet people who likewise choose these activities just for the love of them. I am at peace and full-filled by these activities that are good for me and hosting folk who enjoy finding each other at play in the same way; a new clan of folk/friends. No one needs to command another or prove betterness. We watch the waves, the sun, feel the wind, stroke through the sensual resistance of water, and visit as we meet up.

A full year has gone by since I lost my federal job and my free-fall period began challenging me. In the depths of depression and without any life line available but my own marketable talents, experience, and remnant self-respect, I consciously found my place through the darkness of loss to a new position on a new learning curve. It is a place where I don’t bother to seek a top spot or worry much about a bit of downward sliding at times.

I’ve had to ponder the loss of self when challenged by the ‘youngsters’. It has taken my facing fully the reflection of me and just where my pride fullness downcasts me. Loss and depression have become surprise gifts in the prodding way I’ve found myself wandering and then open to redirection…and new growth. My own son told me how important it has been to him and his brother’s development over the years, having a mom that honestly and so openly exhibits the wins and losses of life. As young men in their early/mid twenties, they report having little fear while discovering lots of flexibility and strength in their own life of lessons by having seen the value of allowing both success and failure to be our teachers…a mother’s reward.

I have a long way to go. Losses will come and go, but the lessons will be sought out and appreciated with discipline. Achievement is no longer a hierarchical position but a comfortable place of ongoing dynamics and adventure too!

And so, I let the young ones direct me. I am a self learner, a good listener, a peaceful team player, but more so a consolidated me having gained much from my losses. I am on a course that does aim me upward but I sit this ride comfortably in my skin, holding the bountiful tool box that is all of me, pulling out the right tools for the right jobs with quiet confidence, experiential efficiency, and effectiveness…all mine and not to be lost any time soon.

As Holly states, all her internal stoking of the fires has allowed her to metamorphous into a “consolidated me”. Losses happen every day. Some losses are a layer deep and some are deeper than earth itself. Whatever types of loss you are dealing with, realize that only you can change things. Only you know how you feel and what you are willing to do to change your outlook. Suffering hurts and it owns a surprising force but you will survive. How you perceive yourself will determine how you endure the challenges. You might as well learn how to bloom and pollinate others with your wisdom, prop them up with your courage and take time to witness the tiny miracles everyday.

 

Copyright Sherry Russell 2004

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| Grief Author and Speaker

Sherry Russell has worked in Grief and Crisis Management for over twenty years. She is the originator of a series of educational Grief and Trauma Workshops(R) which are currently being utilized in Funeral Hom...